An ad from Australian smallgoods producer Primo has been cleared by the standards watchdog after the campaign was accused of falling foul of Australia’s new Country of Origin labelling laws.
A TV ad from the Sydney-based company garnered complaints after the company stated its bacon was “Australia’s favourite”.
“The inference, to me, of this line is that the Bacon is Australian. As Country of Origin Labelling laws have changed, I wonder why this statement is allowed to be made, when Primo are the biggest importers of pork for use in the manufacture of bacon in this country,” a complainant stated in a submission to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
“For those unaware, I feel this is deceptive.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently put SMEs on notice to ensure they’re compliant with the changing Country of Origin laws by July 2018.
These laws will require food products sold in Australia to explicitly show the percentage of the food that was made from Australian ingredients. For any claims around products being “made in Australia” the law specifies the ingredients must “undergo a fundamental change in nature, identity or essential character”.
The new laws include a number of updated labels for food products, which clearly break down the percentage of the food that is Australian made. Contravening these laws could place businesses in violation of Australian Consumer Law, where they could face penalties of up to $1.1 million.
Businesses are currently 12 months into a two-year long transitionary period where both the old and new Country of Origin labelling laws apply.
In a response to the complaint, Primo Smallgoods defended its use of the term “Australia’s favourite bacon”, claiming it did not imply the bacon is Australian made, and instead it reflected consumer preference.
“While Primo notes Primo bacon is made in Australia from local and imported ingredients, it is submitted that the statement “Australia’s favourite bacon” does not infer the bacon is Australian,” the advertiser wrote.
“Primo submits that the plain meaning and common usage of “Australia’s favourite” as would be understood by the market audience is to make a reference claim, in this case to the effect that more Australians prefer Primo to any other brand of bacon.”
In addition to its response, the company included market share data, which showed at the time of advertising Primo Smallgood’s bacon had higher sales numbers than any other brand.
Based on this data, the advertiser claimed the statement “Australia’s favourite bacon” was not misleading or deceptive.
Advertisers should be aware of the risks
The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) agreed with the advertiser in this case, considering the ad in terms of how consumers would interpret it.
“The advertisement does not talk about the provenance of Primo Bacon and considered that the phrase, ‘Australia’s favourite bacon’ is suggestive of people in Australia preferring this brand of bacon rather that suggesting that the bacon itself comes from Australia,” the ASB said.
“The average consumer in the target market of grocery buyers would interpret the advertisement as saying that Primo’s bacon is popular in Australia rather than Primo’s bacon is itself Australian.”
On this basis, the board dismissed the complaint and declared the advertisement did not depict misleading or deceptive material.
Advertising expert and academic at The University Of Melbourne Lauren Rosewarne tells SmartCompany advertisers can regularly get away with using terms such as “Australia’s favourite” as it’s difficult to prove otherwise. She believes there’s “little disincentive” for advertisers to make these claims, but notes they should be aware of the risks.
“If an advertiser is confident that there is no data disproving a claim, then there is little disincentive for them not to boast about being the favourite, the best, or the most premium,” Rosewarne said.
“Advertisers should, however, steer clear of the claims that are easily contradicted, like Australian-made, or highest-selling, or cheapest.”
Claims along these lines can be easily disproven says Rosewarne, and could see businesses cop a ban from the ASB, or even heavy fines.
“Claiming to be the ‘highest selling’ or ‘Australian-made’, on the contrary, is something easily disproven and thus easily able to be determined as deceptive,” Rosewarne says.
Director at InsideOut Public Relations Nicole Reaney agrees, telling SmartCompany businesses should always have “independent data” when making claims around products being the most popular, or a “favourite”.
“Advertising claims can easily be challenged by competitors and consumer groups, the best advice when making a ‘leading’ claim is to ensure you have independent data to support the claim and seek legal approval to verify any potential exposures,” Reaney says.
“It’s better to conduct extensive market research or utilise data to understand your exact space in market dominance.”
SmartCompany contacted Primo Smallgoods but did not receive a response prior to publication.